What do you mean “I am a Jew.”?
When people ask me, a Reform Rabbi, when we meet, “Are you Jewish?'; it amuses me and puzzles me too. Could a rabbi be anything but Jewish? He or she might be a “Jew by Choice” as some of my colleague are, including the late Japanese-born Rabbi Hiroshi Okomoto. Sometimes the next question puzzles me too. “Were your parents Jewish?” The questions make me wonder whether I look like an alien of some kind or whether I look to “gentile”. My answers are simple. I am a Jew by birth and by choice. I love my heritage, especially the Mosaic, the prophetic, and the steady rabbinic emphasis on JUSTICE throughout my people’s history. I would like to believe that every Jew/Jewess takes pride in that concept and works for it, bringing more jusitice and compassion to the world every day. We seem to have a disproportionate number of our people in the legal profession and presiding in courtrooms, including two of my own cousins. To me, that presence reflects ourJewish concern with justice and social action. “Could I be a ‘Jew by choice’ becasue my Jewish conscience is so strong?” I ask myself. Could all the Jews I’ve known who marched in the South for civil rights, who belong to the American Civil Liberties Union, who have become social workers, and who serve on temple social action ommittees also have stronger consciences than the average person? What prompts this love of JUSTICE in my people and in me? Will the mapping of the human genome discover a site that determines one’s love of JUSTICE? And will they discover that his gene is very prominent in all the cidtizens of the United States? I’d like to think so.
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